Roanoke & The Railroad: Riding the Mainline

Norfolk and Western Railway New Moon Network
Wood burners were the first trains to arrive in what would become Roanoke.

From the Archives: We reached way back and pulled this one off one of our archive CDs. This is from 2003 commissioned by Cox Communications, it follows Roanoke’s history from a time when settlers were first trying to tame the region up to the early 21st century. Railroad enthusiasts will love the old pictures some provided by the Norfolk and Western Railway Historical Society.

Norfolk Western Railway New Moon Network
This is one of the oldest pictures of Roanoke

The railroad impacted the physical landscape of the region as well as the socioeconomic landscape.  Trains started rumbling into what would become Roanoke in the early 1850s.  When the Shenandoah Valley Railroad and the Norfolk and Western Railway intersected in Big Lick and a population boom followed.

Big Lick would become Roanoke and buildings seemed to pop up over night. Roanoke earned the moniker “Magic City,” and garnered national attend as its population boomed.  The local newspaper banner called it “the Little Chicago of the South.”

Norfolk and Western Railway  

Norfolk nd western Railway New Moon Network
The Hotel Roanoke was built so railroad executives from the north would have a posh place to stay

The Norfolk and Western Railway brought more than people and jobs to the region.  It brought innovation.  When the Hotel Roanoke was built it was ahead of its time, with hot and cold water in each room.  The building of the hotel led to Roanoke’s first sewer system.  Then of course there were the stream engines.  N&W engineers built some of the most famous steam engines in the world from the ground up in Roanoke.  This one hour documentary includes, historic railroad pictures, video and recorded sounds of trains. It aired on television is the Roanoke region and won a Bronze Telly Award.

Riding the Mainline is the predecessor to the Looking Back series.  New Moon Creative Media, LLC, the parent company of the New Moon Network, produced Looking Back for Cox Communication to tell the stories of the region’s landmarks.

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